Paxety Pages and Former Spook have been posting on Todd Bensman report at the San Antonio Express-News, Part one – Breaching America: War refugees or threats? (emphasis added)
Because all but a tiny fraction of those arrested crossing the southern border are Mexican or Central American, issues of border security get framed accordingly and cast in the image of America’s neighbors to the south. Right or wrong, in this country the public face of illegal immigration has Latino features.
But there are others coming across the Rio Grande, and many are in Boles’ image.
People from 43 so-called “countries of interest” in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa are sneaking into the United States, many by way of Texas, forming a human pipeline that exists largely outside the public consciousness but that has worried counterterrorism authorities since 9-11.
These immigrants are known as “special-interest aliens.” When caught, they can be subjected to FBI interrogation, detention holds that can last for months and, in rare instances, federal prison terms.
The perceived danger is that they can evade being screened through terror-watch lists.
The 43 countries of interest are singled out because terrorist groups operate there. Special-interest immigrants are coming all the time, from countries where U.S. military personnel are battling radical Islamist movements, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Philippines. They come from countries where organized Islamic extremists have bombed U.S. interests, such as Kenya, Tanzania and Lebanon. They come from U.S.-designated state sponsors of terror, such as Iran, Syria and Sudan.
And they come from Saudi Arabia, the nation that spawned most of the 9-11 hijackers.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers, agents along both borders have caught more than 5,700 special-interest immigrants since 2001. But as many as 20,000 to 60,000 others are presumed to have slipped through, based on rule-of-thumb estimates typically used by homeland security agencies.
And here’s the Latin American connection:
The U.S. Justice Department has prosecuted nearly a dozen major smuggling rings that specialized in moving Middle Eastern clients since 9-11.
The majority of the smugglers planned to bring their clientele into South American countries, such as Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, and Guatemala, to prepare them for the final trip north.
Smugglers could simply buy visas outright from corrupt consular or embassy officials, according to these court records. For example, before U.S. and Mexican authorities shut his organization down, Salim Boughader-Mucharrafille, a Mexican national of Lebanese descent, smuggled hundreds of fellow countrymen from Tijuana into California. The scheme involved bribing Mexican consular officials.
Venezuela is another jumping-off point to the American border, according to court records of smuggling cases.
Because of its antagonistic relationship with the United States, Venezuela does not cooperate on counterterrorism measures, according to the U.S. government, and shows no concerns about issuing visas to special-interest migrants.
One day recently, the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, its walls bedecked with large portraits of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, was packed with Syrians seeking one of nine types of visas offered.
The U.S. State Department has complained in recent years about Venezuela’s cozy relationship with Syria and Iran. Earlier this year, the first nonstop flights began from Tehran, Iran, to Caracas, Venezuela — a development that some U.S. counterterrorism specialists say opens a new avenue for potential terrorists to the American border.
Some of the government’s most senior Homeland Security officials have spoken of yet another source of terrorist infiltrators: the area where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, known as the “Tri-Border” region.
Tens of thousands of Arab immigrants there have been under scrutiny by American intelligence services since 9-11. The U.S. Treasury Department in December named people and organizations that “provided financial and logistical support to the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”
And then there’s Cuba,
Cuba’s consul in Damascus said in an interview that his country happily grants visas to any Middle Easterner who asks “because America doesn’t give anyone the opportunity to take refuge, especially after 9-11.”
“But we work another way,” said Armando Perez Suarez. “We put conditions on American people who are making war with everyone. The Arab people are the peaceful ones. We give visas to anybody who wants to visit our country.”
Suarez said he is well aware that Cuba, with its economic problems and poverty, is not anyone’s idea of a final destination.
“After that, if he wants to travel to any other country, the U.S., or Central America, this is not our problem,” Suarez said. “It’s not our burden.”
Michelle Malkin, who interviewed Todd Bensman, points out that there will be no border fence in Texas until 2008.
Here’s the transcript of Hugh Hewitt‘s interview of Todd Bensman.
Rob Bluey sent links to The Heritage Foundation’s 6 essntial requirements for immigration reform. The first priority: national security. Item:
Target federal support at the border. To secure the border, immigration reform legislation should allocate about $400 million per year over the next three years out of the projected spending on homeland security grants. Congress must resist the temptation to turn these grants into earmarked pork-barrel programs and instead insist that federal support for border security policing be strategically employed as a short-term bridging program to secure the border immediately.
Rob also sent this article on the 10 worst provisions in the amnesty title of the bill Rewarding Illegal Aliens: Senate Bill Undermines The Rule of Law
The first priority should be to secure the borders. The rest is talk.